Skin Cancer Treatment

Share:

Exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays cause 90% of all skin cancers. The effect is cumulative. Each unprotected exposure increases one’s lifetime risk of developing skin cancer.

As your first choice in Brentwood for skin cancer treatment, we are grateful that most skin cancers are visible and can be diagnosed and successfully treated before they spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. In fact, Advanced Skin & Laser Center detects and treats many lesions at a precancerous stage – the point at which their cells may be close to turning cancerous but have not yet done so. Naturally, preventing these precancerous lesions (precancers) in the first place is even better. Education by a dermatology expert of the risks may be the first step in preventing skin cancer.

Skin Cancer Types

Click on the Skin Cancer Types below for information and skin cancer treatments.

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
Melanoma
Preventing Skin Cancer

Pre-Cancerous Types

Actinic Keratosis
Dysplastic Nevus
Actinic Keratosis - Actinic keratosis is the most common type of precancerous skin lesion. The more time individuals spend in the sun over the years, the greater their odds of developing one or more AKs. These lesions are more common in older people and outdoor workers, but anyone can develop these precancerous growths, just as anyone can develop skin cancer.

An AK is evidence that sun damage has occurred and that the individual is at greater risk of skin cancer. These lesions most often appear on skin surfaces that have been exposed to the sun or to artificial sources of UV light such as tanning beds.

The more AKs that are present, the greater the chance that one or more may turn into skin cancer. Patients may have invisible lesions on the surface. Untreated, a significant number of AKs may develop into squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), a common form of skin cancer. Actinic cheilitis, a particularly aggressive type of AK that develops on the lips, sometimes transforms into a type of SCC that can spread rapidly to other parts of the body.

Once an AK becomes a cancer and invades more deeply into the skin, it may bleed, ulcerate, become infected, and even spread to internal organs.

Check your skin regularly for any lesions that look suspicious. If you notice changes in shape, size, or color, see your physician promptly.

Treatment Options for AKs Treated early, almost all AKs can be eliminated before becoming skin cancers. Various treatments can be used effectively with little or no scarring.

  • Cryosurgery – This is the most widely used treatment for AKs. It is useful when a limited number of lesions are present. It is applied with a spraying device that freezes them without requiring any cutting or anesthesia. They shrink or become crusted and fall off.
  • Curettage and Desiccation – When the AK is suspected to be early cancer, the physician may take tissue for a biopsy by shaving off the top of the AK or scraping it off with a curette. The curette is used to remove the base of the lesion and bleeding is stopped with an electrocautery needle. A local anesthetic is necessary.
  • Topical Medications – When there are numerous lesions, topical creams and solutions are used. They treat both visible and invisible AKs with a minimal risk of scarring compared with other therapies.
  • Laser Surgery – The skin’s outer layer and variable amounts of deeper skin are removed using a carbon dioxide laser. The risks of scarring and pigment loss are slightly greater than with other techniques, and local anesthesia may be required.
  • Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) – PDT can be especially useful for lesions on the face and scalp. A topical is applied to the lesion(s) at the physician’s office. The next day the patient returns and those medicated areas are activated by a strong light. This treatment selectively destroys AKs while causing minimal damage to surrounding normal tissue. Redness and swelling are common side effects of this therapy.

Dysplastic Nevus

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) & Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

The two most common skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma affecting more than 1.3 million people in the United States each year. Both are caused by long-term exposure to the sun and typically appear in the same locations as AKs. The rim of the ear and the lower lip are especially susceptible to SCC.

Outdoor workers have a high incidence of BCC and SCC, but in the general population, more and more, only in their 20’s and 30’s are being diagnosed with these cancers.

Some BCCs resemble non cancerous skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema. There are five typical characteristics of BCC.

A shiny bump that is pearly or translucent and is often pink, red, or white. The bump can also be tan, black, or brown in dark haired people and can be confused as a mole.

An open sore that bleeds, oozes, or crusts and remains open for three or more weeks. A persistent non-healing sore is a very common sign of an early basal cell carcinoma.

A scar-like area that is white, yellow, or waxy, and often has poorly defined borders. The skin itself appears shiny and taut.

A pink growth with a slightly elevated rolled border and a crusted indentation in the center. As the growth slowly enlarges, tiny blood vessels may develop on the surface.

A reddish patch or irritated area frequently occurring o the chest, shoulders, arms, or legs. Sometimes the patch crusts. It may also itch or hurt. At other times, it persists with no noticeable discomfort.

While BCCs seldom spread to vital organs, they can cause major damage – even the loss of an eye, ear, or nose. Certain rare forms can become lethal if not treated promptly.

How to Spot a Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Many SCCs develop from an existing actinic keratosis (AK) or actinic cheilitis. SCCs usually appear as thick, rough, scaly patches that may bleed if bumped. They often look like warts and sometimes appear as open sores with a raised border and crusted surface over an elevated pebbly base. The skin around SCCs typically shows signs of sun damage such as wrinkling, pigment changes, and loss of elasticity. These lesions persist for weeks and occasionally bleed. They may also rapidly increase in size.

In general, SCCs are more threatening than BCCs and have a greater chance of spreading and becoming life threatening if untreated.

    Skin Cancer Treatment Options for Basal and Squamous Cell Carcinoma
  • Curettage and Electrodesiccation – As with AKs, the growth is scraped off with a curette, but when treating BCCs or SCCs, the procedure is typically repeated a few times to help assure that all cancer cells are eliminated. Local anesthesia is required, and bleeding is controlled with an electrocautery needle.
  • Excisional Surgery – Along with the above procedure, this is one of the most common treatments for BCCs and SCCs. Using a scalpel, the physician removes the entire growth along with a surrounding border of apparently normal skin as a safety margin. The incision is closed, and the growth is sent to the laboratory to verify that all cancerous cells have been removed.
  • Mohs Micrographic Surgery – The physician removes the tumor with a curette or scalpel and then removes very thin layers of the remaining surrounding skin one layer at a time. Each layer is checked under a microscope, and the procedure is repeated until the last layer viewed is cancer-free. This technique saves the greatest amount of healthy tissue and may reduce the rate of local recurrence. It is often used for tumors that have recurred or are in hard-to-treat places such as the head, neck, hands, and feet.
  • Cryosurgery, laser surgery, and photodynamic therapy – the same treatments used to eliminate AKs can also be used to treat BCCs and SCCs.
  • BCCs and SCCs are easily treated when they are detected at an early stage. However, the larger a tumor grows, the more dangerous and potentially disfiguring it may become and the more extensive the treatment must be.

Melanoma

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. It is most often caused by intense, intermittent exposures to the sun especially exposures that occur before age 18. In the past two decades, as outdoor recreational activities have increased and fashions have left more skin exposed, melanoma incidence rates have more than tripled.

Fair-skinned people with light hair and eye color, and those who have had sunburns or tend to burn easily, are at an increased risk of developing melanoma. So are those who have a family history of the disease or have ever had a melanoma or other skin cancer. People with large, unusually colored, and irregularly shaped moles (dysplastic nevi, also called atypical moles) are also at higher risk.

In its earliest stages, melanoma is readily treatable. Left untreated, it will spread to vital organs, frequently becoming life-threatening.

How to Spot a Melanoma

Most people have some brownish spots or growths. Almost all of these are normal, but growths that change noticeably in size or have irregularities in shape and color could be melanomas. It is important to check the skin from head to toe every month, staying alert for lesions that have the “ABCD” signs of melanoma: Asymmetry, Border irregularity, Color variability, and Diameter larger than a pencil eraser.

  • Asymmetry – Most melanomas are asymmetrical: A line through the middle would not create matching halves. Common moles are round and symmetrical.
  • Border Irregularity – The borders of early melanomas are often uneven and may have scalloped or notched edges. Common moles have smoother, more even borders.
  • Color Variability – Varied shades of brown, tan, or black are often the first sign of melanoma. As melanomas progress, the colors red, white, and blue may appear. Common moles usually are a single shade of brown.
  • Diameter – Early melanomas tend to grow larger than common moles; generally to at least the size of a pencil eraser (about 6mm, or ¼ inch, in diameter).

Skin Cancer Treatment Options for Melanoma

  • Excisional Surgery – When melanomas are discovered at an early stage, thin and have not spread beyond the original tumor site, standard excisional surgery is frequently the sole treatment required.
  • Regional Lymph Node Dissection – If stray cancer cells spread beyond the tumor’s original borders, they may reach nearby lymph nodes. This is a major concern because lymph nodes empty fluid into the bloodstream, and cancerous cells could be carried throughout the body. To keep this from happening, surgeons may remove the entire group of lymph nodes closest to the tumor. Sometimes remaining nodes are spared if no cancerous cells are found in the sentinel nodes.
  • Other Treatments – When cancer cells spread beyond the lymph nodes, the melanoma is considered advanced, and a variety of treatment options are used. These additional treatments include radiation, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy (synthetic versions of natural disease-fighting drugs such as interferon and interleukin). These techniques do not cure the majority of advanced cancers. However, they often delay the cancer’s advance and increase the lifespan of patients.

Preventing Skin Cancer

While AKs and skin cancers are almost always curable when detected and treated early, the surest line of defense is to prevent them in the first place. Here are some dermatologist-recommended sun-safety habits that should be part of everyone’s daily healthcare:

  • Avoid unnecessary sun exposure, especially during the sun’s peak hours (10am to 4pm).
  • Seek the shade
  • Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.
  • Avoid tanning parlors and artificial tanning devices.
  • Examine your skin from head to toe every month.
  • Have a professional skin examination annually.

Give Our Dermatology Experts A Call!

Do you have a lesion on your skin that you think might be skin cancer? Let the experts at Advanced Skin & Laser Center take a look and put your mind at ease. We offer extensive skin care services in the Brentwood area. From cosmetic services to surgical services, Dr. Binhlam and his caring staff will treat you with excellent and dedicated care. Contact us by phone at our Brentwood, TN office at (615) 843-7546 and find out more about the variety of services we offer. We look forward to providing the highest quality dermatology treatment possible.